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Airbus superjumbo takes off on first commercial flight

File image of the A380.
by Staff Writers
Aboard The Airbus A380 (AFP) Oct 25, 2007
After long delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the Airbus superjumbo -- the biggest airliner ever built -- took off on Thursday for its first commercial flight.

The Airbus A380 left Singapore bound for Sydney, carrying a special group of passengers who bought their seats in an online charity auction, hoping to experience a bit of aviation history.

"We are indeed honoured to have you grace the first commercial flight today. Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight," Captain Robert Ting told passengers as flight attendants handed out hot towels and cameras clicked.

Flight SQ380 operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), the first airline carrier to fly the double-decker behemoth, was to land in Sydney almost 7.5 hours later.

Top bidder Julian Hayward, 38, a Briton who lives in Sydney, paid more than 100,000 US dollars "to be a part of history", he said before boarding. He was flying in seat 1A.

For others, history came cheaper.

Austrian Georg Burdicek paid just 560 dollars for his economy seat, the cheapest one sold during the auction.

The plane also carried two top chefs, one from Singapore and another from Sydney, who were in charge of a champagne brunch for all the passengers, SIA said.

Even the top ticket price is a pittance compared to the estimated six billion dollars in overruns that the European manufacturer endured to get its plane off the ground. It was delivered to Singapore Airlines 18 months late.

The production problems and subsequent delay embarrassed Airbus, a bitter rival of US firm Boeing, and some analysts have warned that the gigantic aircraft -- which can fit 72 cars on each wing -- is a "white elephant".

But others say the giant plane, which can haul 853 passengers in all-economy mode, is about to revolutionise the aviation industry.

"The October 25, 2007 entry into service of the A380 truly represents the beginning of a new era," the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), a consultancy, said in a report.

Instead of a budget set-up, Singapore Airlines has installed just 471 seats to offer more space, particularly in business and first class.

SIA's version has 399 economy seats, 60 business seats, and a "suites" class of 12 compartments with flat-screen televisions about the size of a briefcase, sheets by French designer Givenchy and a full-length bed behind sliding doors.

On the first flight, the suites passengers were able to quaff Dom Perignon Rose 1996 and other fine wines, along with caviar. They had a choice of dishes such as pan-roasted muscovy duck breast with black cherry jus, or wok-fried beef in garlic and black Java pepper sauce with fish noodles.

After Thursday's inaugural flight, regular service to Sydney is to begin on Sunday.

Superjumbo service on the Singapore-London route will start in February, and Japan could come later, according to SIA executives.

Rival Boeing has put its energies into developing a midsized airplane, the 787 Dreamliner, which has secured at least 710 orders.

In contrast, Airbus has 180 firm orders and commitments to buy the superjumbo.

Dubai-based Emirates has ordered 55 A380s, making it the leading client on a list of predominantly Asian, European and Gulf-based customers. Qantas will get the A380 next year.

Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent for industry publication Orient Aviation, said SIA will have "a huge marketing edge" for almost the next year until other carriers start flying the A380.

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Third Maritime Surveillance System For Canada
Stockholm, Sweden (SPX) Oct 23, 2007
The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has received an order from Transport Canada for a third MSS 6000 Maritime Surveillance System. "We are very excited about ordering the third MSS 6000 as it is in line with our vision of having three of Canada's oceans protected with three similarly equipped aircraft," says Louis Armstrong, Program Manager for Transport Canada's National Aerial Surveillance Program and the technical authority for procurement contract.

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